Sculptors Bring Cubism, Chainsaws to Chunks of Ice in Anchorage

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Artists wielding sanders and drills spent three days this weekend carving blocks of ice into salmon and sea-dragons in downtown Anchorage, showcasing all you can create out of a one-and-a-half ton block of frozen water.

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The Crystal Gallery of Ice is comprised of a series of sparkling ice sculptures spread over the winding walkway of Town Square on Anchorage’s 6th Avenue, beside the Performing Arts Center.

Families and smartphone-photographers alike swarmed around two figures inspired by Pablo Picasso’s cubist paintings as the whirl of power-tools rose and fell.

“The piece is called ‘Symphony in Ice,’ says Carol Lewando, an art teacher with the Anchorage Public Schools, and one half of the sculpting team. “We wanted to make musicians, so one is a tall bass player, and the other one is a guitar–or you could say a mandolin, depending on the size.”

Lewando and her husband have carved a piece in the annual event for the last 15 years.  They were one of eight teams competing. And in between greeting students and acquaintances, Lewando is put the finishing touches on the glassy surfaces of the stocky guitarist while the sun set.

“Once we get pretty much finished then we start playing around with texture,” Lewando explained. “It’s amazing how all our pieces have all transformed from a 3,000 pound block of ice that was six feet tall by four feet by two feet–it’s just fascinating,” she added with a laugh.

The particular type of ice used in the Crystal Gallery is called “Arctic Diamond,” and was hauled down from Fairbanks by rail and road through corporate donations. The three day event is sponsored by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, drawing teams from all over Alaska, and from as far away as Harbin, China.

Lewando loves how easily ice can be molded into new shapes with chainsaws and chizzles, and the way sunlight, temperature, and wind all change the works from minute to minute.

“Really the reward is starting and finishing and not getting injured,” she throws in jovially, “and creating something beautiful.”

A sculpture of a mythological dragon titled “Kirin” by William Hartgrove and John Trescott took first place. But “Symphony in Ice” made off with the Carver’s Choice Award

Lewando hopes people will come look at the works now through February, as the weather reclaims each statue. Although with ice carving, that is par for the course.